'Thefts can range from €50... to €50k' - warning as construction robberies soar by 35pc in one year

€7.8 million worth of items stolen from construction sites across Ireland last yearWarning comes from Gardaí and the Construction Industry Federation (CIF)Workers urged to mark tools clearly

Stock photo: PA

Ralph Riegel

More than €21,500 worth of construction tools and equipment is now stolen every single day in Ireland.

The rate of thefts soared by an alarming 35pc last year with the impact of construction crime now even threatening the ability to deliver on ambitious house building targets.

Incredibly, of the  €7.8 million worth of items stolen from construction sites across Ireland last year, a whopping  €6.3 million was accounted for by high-value power tool thefts.

Thefts from vehicles now make up 43pc of construction crime with 4,562 incidents of construction crime reported last year.

Dublin has been particularly badly hit by targeted construction thefts.

The warning came as Gardaí and the Construction Industry Federation (CIF) launched a special initiative to help workers and site managers protect property - and to avail of the free advice of Garda crime prevention officers.

CIF director Tom Parlon warned that a crime which deprives a construction worker of his specialist tools essentially strips him of his livelihood and ability to work.

"The thefts can range from €50 for a single tool right up to €50,000 for an expensive piece of machinery which is stolen for the black market overseas," he said.

Mr Parlon said the CIF was now working closely with the Gardaí to make it as difficult as possible for thieves to target construction sites and workers.

"We are sending out the message to the 130,000 workers in the industry that if you secure it, you keep it."

Construction worker Philip Mullins said such crimes can be very costly.

The Cork worker had vital equipment taken from his van three years ago.

"They stole over €3,000 worth of my tools - but they did leave the van," he said.

Chief Superintendent Con Cadogan urged workers to carefully mark or engrave their tools and equipment, to seek the free advice of crime prevention officers and to adhere to all site security recommendations ranging from possible CCTV security camera installations to special secure areas for tool storage.

"The main objective of our 'Secure It, Keep It' campaign is to create and maintain awareness both within the industry and with the general public as to the importance of site security and the security of valuable plant machinery, construction equipment, tools and materials."

Chief Supt Cadogan said one recent Garda operation resulted in valuable power tools being recovered in Bantry in west Cork - and, because the tools were properly marked, they were returned within 48 hours to their rightful owners in Dublin where they had been stolen from construction sites.

In other cases, black market gangs time the theft of expensive site machinery to co-ordinate with ferry sailings to the UK and France where the equipment is then sold on.

Gardaí are now actively monitoring car boot sales, online marketplaces and various other outlets by which such goods can be disposed of.

"The message we want to get across is that a tool or a piece of machinery is no good to a thief if they cannot sell it on," Chief Supt Cadogan said.

"But we also want to make it as difficult as possible for them in the first place to attempt to steal it."